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Encounter at Ustyluh, 1944


The Second World War, Bolt Action, 28mm

The aim of this small Second World War skirmish game was to try out the new Bolt Action rules. Somewhere on the Polish-Ukranian border in mid 1944 a small German kamfgruppe was trying to break out of a pocket. A scratch force of Soviet infantry and Polish-crewed T34/85s were out to stop them. Colin Jack supplied all the toys and terrain, and organised the scenario. Essentially the nasty Nazis (reluctantly played by Angus and Ray, plus a new guy called Dave) had several squads of infantry and two AFVs (a Pz IV and a Jagdpanther), supported by a small infantry gun towed by what looked suspiciously like a Volkswagen Beetle camper van. The Soviet-Polish side had a slightly smaller force, which included a unit of Polish partisans, backed up by the two Polish-crewed tanks. Bill and Bart took charge of the defenders. Being the only one to have read the rules, Colin acted as the long-suffering umpire.ww2-02The way Bolt Action works is that a number of dice corresponding to the number of units on each side get thrown into a cup. When the right colour of dice comes out that side can use it to activate one of its units. We spend our first turn or two moving forward, with the armour lumbering into a position where it could threaten the village standing in the centre of the table. On our right flank a lone unit of Fallshirmjagers backed by the infantry gun tried to pin the partisans, who were supported by one of the Polish tanks. Things started to fall apart on Turn 3. The Soviets spent much of Turn 2 getting into ambush positions, which gives them an advantage when it comes to shooting. We were on the offensive, so we didn’t have that luxury. With our tank in range and in sight of the enemy we tried to shoot first, but thanks to the ambush rule the Polish tank fired before we did. It only needed one shot. The Pz IV was hit, and the crew promptly bailed out. No problem we thought – we still have a tank destroyer…ww2-04That pesky T-34 fired destroyed our MMG team which had occupied a log cabin on the left flank, and we thought that was our big chance. The Jagpanther lumbered forward and fired. We rolled a “3”, which was a clear miss. At the start of the next turn the Soviets got the drop, and decided – quite sensibly – to start with their T-34. It hit and brewed up the Jagdpanther, which left us with no armour on the table, and with two enemy tanks blocking our path. We couldn’t even rely on our little infantry gun to help us, as it didn’t have any AT rounds. Worse, its crew were hit by the second T-34, and effectively it was knocked out of the game. That left us with a handful of infantry – who had a panzerfaust, and a solitary panzershreck team. That was our last hope…ww2-03All of these light anti-tank missiles bounced off the battle-winning T-34, and the tank hunters were rewarded with a spray of bullets from the tank’s co-axial machine gun. There were no reloads. This meant that literally we’d shot our bolt. Over on our far left Ray had been trying to sneak an infantry squad off the table by keeping clear of the firefight. Unfortunately the Soviets had posted a squad in a building close to their table edge, and Ray’s squad walked straight into an ambush. With that the game came to an end, as the remaining Germans slunk back into their encircled pocket. The game was therefore a clear Soviet-Polish victory.ww2-05Everyone else seemed to enjoy the rules, but I found them a little simplistic. The tank fight was pure Battle: Practical Wargaming, with anything capable of knocking out any tank on the table, provided it rolled high enough dice. The infantry firing was little more than a straight 3+ (modified) to hit, 3+ (modified) to kill, which is just like other rules out there, such as Rules of Engagement, only there are less factors to influence the outcome. That said, I’m sure they’ll grow on me eventually .. until something better comes along. They’re certainly more intuitive than Disposable Heroes, but then so are RoE. The jury is still out…

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